International Film Festival Rotterdam, January 2009
After two prize-winning short films, Duane Hopkins made his debut as a feature director with ‘Better Things’ (previously a CineMart project in Rotterdam), with which he pursued a long British tradition of cinematographic social realism. At the same time, he gives his very own take on it.
Hopkins shows three relationships of inconspicuous lovers who are all in a crisis. There’s a schoolgirl who is pestered by her jealous ex-boyfriend. There’s the older married couple who are still tormented by an event from the past they cannot discuss, living in a permanent state of cold war with each other. And there are the two young lovers who are in danger of succumbing to their inability to resist the seduction of hard drugs.
Hopkins avoids melodramatic or politically charged class consciousness. He does not tell a story from A to Z, but zooms in on the moments that are decisive in life. With determined precision, he seeks in each of his characters the emotional price that is paid for deeds of which they have not estimated the impact in advance. The observations do not seek a classical climax, but form more of an unprejudiced ‘close study’ of mutual dependence and the lack of an individual course. And is it far-fetched to compare heroin intoxication of some of the protagonists with the languid, subtle, warmly photographed style of the film?
Alba Film Festival, March 2009
Better Things could almost perfectly be defined as an audiovisual poem. One which says that love is an inextinguishable substance, and that no matter how hard one attempts to repress the feeling, it will never perish throughout a whole life. Therefore, one cannot really fully recover from a love-related disappointment. Powerful and passionate, the unique voice of Duane Hopkins is characterised by special attention to a photography that transcends the social background of his characters. Almost all non-professionals, they live on tiny pensions or are drug-addicted, and their accent reveals their milieu; yet Better Things is far from social realism, since its main ambition is to explore the torments of the soul.